Medical Freedom of Choice

"We see no reason why a patient should not be allowed to make an informed decision to go outside currently approved medical methods in search of an unconventional treatment."
--Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
(in the landmark case of "Schneider v. Revici," 1987).

Nothing is more precious than freedom. In cancer treatment, freedom of choice means having the knowledge to make a decision about which treatments you want. It also means being in a position to reject treatments you do not want, without pressure or coercion from other people, including doctors and family members.

This right was adumbrated over a century ago by the British philosopher John Stuart Mill in his classic On Liberty, and by U.S. Supreme Court Justices Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Cardozo, who wrote that individuals have an essential right of privacy, and that over their own bodies they could do what they wished. The right has been spelled out in greater detail by jurists, philosophers, and many patients in the course of the twentieth century.

While most people in power give lip service to this idea, in practice our medical rights are often abrogated. As the following articles from The Cancer Chronicles illustrate, it is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which most capriciously denies patients freedom of choice by paternalistically limiting access to unconventional treatments.

  • Revici on Trial (1989)
  • New York Mother Jailed (1989)
  • California Victory (1990)
  • OTA Speeches (1990)
  • Seymour Brenner's Speech to OTA (1990)
  • Peter Barry Chowka's Speech to OTA (1990)
  • Michael Culbert's Speech to OTA (1990)
  • Michael Evers' Speech to OTA (1990)
  • Robert G. Houston's Speech to OTA (1990)
  • Richard Jaffe's Speech to OTA (1990)
  • Ralph W. Moss's Speech to OTA (1990)
  • FDA's Stepchildren (1991)
  • FDA Wrongs Wright (1992)
  • Atkins Suspension (1993)
  • Editorial: Much-Needed Vacation (1993)
  • Choice Lowers Cost (1993)
  • Greenfield on Atkins (1993)
  • Kessler's Cops (1993)
  • NYS Medical Freedom Act (1994)
  • NYS State Passes Act (1994)
  • Daschle Hearings (1994)
  • Access Bill Introduced (1994)
  • Alternative Medicine in Qu├ębec (1994)
  • FDA and 714X (1994)
  • LK-200 Gone (1995)
  • Warner's Troubles (1995)
  • Answer to an Oncologist (1995)


    Almost everyone agrees that they should have medical freedom of choice for themselves. However, some people are ready to deny this right to others. This is usually done under the guise of "consumer protection." Under a democracy, you cannot legitimately claim a right for yourself that you are not willing to see extended to every other sane and sentient adult. Thus, it is logically necessary to uphold every person's right to obtain--or shun-- a particular medical treatment, especially when confronted by a life-threatening illness.

    What about the FDA? Isn't it still necessary to protect people from fraud and abuse? How can we square our philosophical belief in freedom with the reality of the marketplace? Some degree of compromise is necessary, but I think that over the last 30 years we have swung too far over toward stringent enforcement of certain laws, and away from the concept of individual responsibility. Anyway, that dynamic is what makes this whole struggle so interesting.

    In The Cancer Chronicles we have always covered the struggle for medical freedom of choice and called for restraints on the actions of an overzealous Food and Drug Administration. We support the Access to Medical Freedom Act and other legislation that will make it easier for citizens to exercise their right to choose cancer treatments.

    articles on freedom of choice

    Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. is director of the The Moss Reports for cancer patients. Dr. Moss is the author of eleven books and three documentaries on cancer-related topics. He is or has been an advisor on alternative cancer treatments to the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the American Urological Association, Columbia University, the University of Texas, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the German Society of Oncology. He wrote the first article on alternative medicine for the Encyclopedia Britannica yearbook. He is listed in Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in the East, and Who's Who in Entertainment (as a film documentarian). This Web site does not advocate any particular treatment for cancer. We urge you to always seek competent medical advice for all health problems, especially cancer. Before consulting our site please read our full Disclaimer statement.

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